THE GREAT NAMES OF THE FRENCH CANADIAN COMMUNITY

THE CANADIAN FRENCH-SPEAKING WORLD and some of the people who have contributed to its greatness

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ARTS AND CULTURE

Émile Benoît

Date of birth:
March 24, 1913

Place of birth:
L'Anse-à-Canards

NewfoundlandProvince:
Newfoundland

Callings:
Storyteller, folklorist and fiddler

 

 

"Yes, I'm proud of helping the French to survive
here. I've got no enemies, no bad friends, I'm
just a free man."

Émile Benoît


Photo : Festival Émile-Benoît

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His father, Amédé Benoît, was of French descent, and his mother, Adeline Duffenais, was an Acadian from Cheticamp. He studied English during his three years at the elementary school in L'Anse-à-Canards. Like most Franco-Newfoundlanders of the time, he learned his French at home. At the age of 12, he started to work as a fisherman, the trade he was to ply throughout his life. He managed to lay hands on a violin and began to play at dances, weddings, and community and family gatherings.

Émile Benoît had a host of talents. He was a jack of many trades and master of most: a carpenter and blacksmith who was something of a doctor, a dentistry and a vet as well. But what he loved most was music and Acadian folklore.

Émile Benoît raised 13 children in an age when life was bitterly hard. He was 60 years old before he could devote himself entirely to music. In 1973, he won his first fiddle competition. in Stephenville. He went on to take part in a number of festivals, including Une longue veillée in Cap St-Georges, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's. With the help of Gérald Thomas, of Memorial University's Folklore Department, Mr Benoît was able to play at most major folk events in Canada. In 1987, he went to the Festival international in Nantes, France, and a year later to the Jazz Heritage Festival in New Orleans. He was invited to perform in Norway and England, and often played with Newfoundland groups specializing in traditional music. He appeared on television a number of times, and on the radio, and recorded three records: Émile's Dream in 1979, Ça vient du Tchoeur in 1982 and Vive la Rose in 1992.

Émile Benoît was a prolific composer, credited with more than 200 fiddle tunes. For several thousand Franco-Newfoundlanders, he was a key link between the culture of the past and the culture of today. In recognition of his contribution to the Acadian cause, the Société nationale des Acadiens awarded him, in 1988, the Léger-Comeau Medal. That same year, Memorial University gave him an honorary doctorate for his contribution to francophone culture. On September 2, 1992, Émile Benoît died at the age of 79. The francophones of Newfoundland lost with him one of their most prestigious ambassadors.

 

 

 

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THE GREAT NAMES OF THE FRENCH CANADIAN COMMUNITY